Book Review 2012-014
Ruhlman's Twenty by Michael Ruhlman
2012 by Chronicle Books, 367 pages
(I bought this a few weeks ago)
Subtitled "20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto," Ruhlman's Twenty is both a beautiful AND useful book to have around the house. It especially works well, hand-in-hand, with two of Ruhlman's past works: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, and The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen. What Ruhlman has done with these last three books he's published is help out the foodie, the every day cook of the house and anybody else interested in cooking that has any fears of trying anything beyond making hot dogs, or spaghetti. Ruhlman himself is right up there with any foodie in the world, having pitched his love of cooking and writing non-fiction right into being set up to take the first year (or semester, it's been about a decade since I read it) of classes at the Culinary Institute of America and turn it into The Making of the Chef, a fantastic read. Since then he's added two more books to that "series" with The Soul of the Chef and The Reach of the Chef; he's co-written a food column with chef Thomas Keller; become the go-to writer to help out with super-cookbooks by chefs like Keller, Brian Polcyn, Eric Ripert, and Michael Symon; and has frequently been a judge on Iron Chef and the list goes on and on.
His love of food and cooking comes through on every page of these wondeful books and by bringing in familly this time around, his wife Donna Turner Ruhlman adds incredible photography to this title, has created a book that belongs in every kitchen.
The twenty of the title are techniques that once you understand them, and realize how simple for the most part that each one is, you should have absolutely no fear in your own kitchen. When reading fancy recipes you'll understand not only how to proceed through the cooking, but WHY you are doing each of the steps. The twenty include some obvious things such as Grill, Fry, and Roast, but also some perhaps lesser thought about, and probably misunderstood, ideas such as Water, Acid, and Egg.
The writing is very succinct--Ruhlman does not believe for a second you have a clue what you are doing in your kitchen when you pick this book up and makes sure he explains everything and in laymen's terms, not something you'd need to have Escoffier by your side to understand. The photos do add quite a bit, both in beauty throughout, but also when the Ruhlman's work together to create a series of photos that wordlessly explain a technique.
Like any sport or activity, it's the fundamentals that tend to work best for anyone from the amatuer on up to the professional level, and that is what Ruhlman has given his reader here--twenty fundaments ideas with processes on how to use the ideas. With these ideas you can walk into your kitchen confidently and begin to expand your household's culinary horizons.